Will 2017 be any different than 2016 in the SEC? Can anyone catch Alabama?

It will certainly be interesting to watch.

The conference as a whole will need to step up its game, as the ACC and the Big Ten both seem to be getting stronger. One position that can certainly help the perception is quarterback, and the SEC is returning several of them with experience. More game-changing players from the position will help the conference in many ways.

Another scenario we’ll be interested to watch play out is the SEC West vs. East, strength-wise. The West certainly has dominated in recent history — Alabama has a lot to do with that, but the East will have to have a revival at some point, right? I think we’re a year away from making that case.

ESPN recently took a stab at their way-too-early SEC power rankings:

1. Alabama Crimson Tide
2. Auburn Tigers
3. LSU Tigers
4. Georgia Bulldogs
5. Florida Gators
6. Tennessee Volunteers
7. Texas A&M Aggies
8. Arkansas Razorbacks
9. Ole Miss Rebels
10. Kentucky Wildcats
11. South Carolina Gamecocks
12. Mississippi State Bulldogs
13. Vanderbilt Commodores
14. Missouri Tigers

Few Takeaways:

  • ESPN sees the SEC West flexing its muscles once again, with Alabama, Auburn and LSU as the top three teams. Obviously, Alabama and LSU belong, but Auburn is the wildcard of those three. New QB Jarrett Stidham figures to give the Tigers’ offense a shot in the arm, but the defense will have to replace some key playmakers.
  • Of the SEC East contenders, Georgia has the most talent returning and the most upside, and the rankings reflect that. The combination of QB Jacob Eason and RBs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel is the best trio in the division, and the Bulldogs could be a top 10 preseason team.
  • Florida and Tennessee are interesting teams to watch. The Gators lose a ton of talent on defense, and desperately need to find a difference-maker at QB. Tennessee loses talent on both sides of the ball, and it could be viewed as somewhat of a rebuilding year in Knoxville. 2016 was Butch Jones’ best chance to win a championship … maybe ever.
  • From No. 7 to No. 14, there aren’t any real surprises. 2017 will be a defining season for Bret Bielema at Arkansas, and it’s time his program makes some noise or he could find himself sitting on the hotseat. It’s basically the same script for Kevin Sumlin at Texas A&M, too.